ST. LOUIS -- On Saturday night, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced that former St. Louis Rams safety Aeneas Williams is part of this year's class of inductees. Williams isn't likely to be remembered as much for his time with the Rams as he was with the Arizona Cardinals, but for those wanting a player with a longer track record of playing for the Rams to get in, the time is coming soon.
The Greatest Show on Turf version of the Rams had no shortage of Hall of Fame candidates. Running back Marshall Faulk was the first to go in, but now the rest of the group is coming eligible. That should make for some tough decisions for the committee in the next couple of years but there are multiple Rams with a legitimate case to get in.
Amongst the many legends to play in the NFL over the years, there have been many great stories. Some of the game’s true greats overcame incredible hardships and obstacles to reach the pinnacle of the sport. But it’s not overstating it to assert that St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner’s rags to riches story is the greatest of them all.
Before the 1999 NFL season, the Rams signed quarterback Trent Green to a lucrative contract, hoping to install him as the starter of a revamped offense that featured running back Marshall Faulk, left tackle Orlando Pace and receiver Isaac Bruce.
When Green suffered a torn ACL in the preseason, then Rams coach Dick Vermeil uttered the now famous line ‘We will rally around Kurt Warner and we will play good football’ with his trademark tears streaming down his face.
The reaction of most was to ask ‘Who’s Kurt Warner?’ Rams fans and football fans alike found out pretty quickly who Warner was and soon his story became something of a legend.
By now, you’ve heard the story about the grocery shelf stocker turned NFL and Super Bowl MVP so we won’t recount it again here. By the time Warner’s six years in St. Louis were through, he’d thrown for 14,447 yards and 102 touchdowns for a passer rating of 97.2. Along the way, Warner won two MVPs and led the Rams to a win in Super Bowl XXXIV and a trip to Super Bowl XXXVI.
When Warner’s time in St. Louis ended in 2003, his magical run with the Rams almost certainly would have left him as one of the most hotly debated Hall of Fame candidates of all time. His numbers were spectacular but the sample size was small and overall, his body of work didn’t compare to many others.
Had Warner’s career ended there, his best chance to make the Hall of Fame would have rested more on the mythology of his story than the cold, hard numbers.
That was all before Warner’s desert revival in Arizona where he turned a maybe into a yes. That Warner added a final dominant chapter to his career with the moribund Cardinals should be more than enough to ensure him induction into the Hall of Fame.
Warner spent a lone season with the Giants in New York and just as all seemed lost, got another chance in Arizona. He promptly led the Cardinals; yes the Cardinals, to a Super Bowl appearance in 2008 behind one of his greatest seasons.
In five years in Arizona, Warner’s statistics match up pretty evenly to his five seasons as a starter in St. Louis. He threw for 15,843 yards and 100 touchdowns for a passer rating of 91.9 while starting 57 games, seven more than he did with the Rams.
All told, Warner ranks 33rd in league history with 32,344 passing yards, 31st in touchdown passes with 208 and eighth in passer rating at 93.7. He also led two teams to Super Bowl appearances, winning one with the Rams.
On the surface, many of Warner’s numbers may still fall short of some of the game’s greats. However, his second act in Arizona should more than enough to earn him enshrinement in Canton.
Whether Warner makes it next year when he’s eligible for the first time remains to be seen. But the guess here is that Warner’s immense production in a relatively short period combined with the romanticism of his story will be enough to get him in on the first try right next to the man who protected his blindside in St. Louis.